Collaborative Virtual Environments to Support Communication and Community in Internet-Based Distance Education
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Redfern, S., and Naughton, N. 2002. Journal of Information Technology Education, 1(3), 201-211. 'Collaborative Virtual Environments to Support Communication and Community in Internet-Based Distance Education'. .
In this paper we discuss the use of modern information and communication technologies for distance education (DE) purposes. We argue that current technologies and implementations do not adequately support the key concepts of communication and community that many practitioners believe to be important, particularly if modern pedagogies such as constructivism are to be supported. We propose that collaborative virtual environments (CVEs), which are computer-enabled, distributed virtual spaces or places in which people can meet and interact with others, with agents and with virtual objects, are appropriate tools for improving DE. We discuss the current developments in the areas of CVEs in particular and in computer supported co-operative work (CSCW) in general. We also note those areas in which the majority of CVEs implemented to date have not reached their full potential for DE support, discuss current thought regarding online community, and outline a proposed CVE-based system for DE. The architecture of a CVE should be based on the pedagogical requirements of the community and include three distinct types of virtual space: collaborative zones, common student campus, and lecture rooms. With proper design, a CVE should greatly assist the development of a productive learning community in which students - social, academic, and collaborative needs are met